“The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.”
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is very sweet and beautiful story.
Set in the summer of 1987, Ari is a loner who keeps to himself and prefers it that way. One day, Ari ventures to the public pool, despite not knowing how to swim, to observe the young folk enjoying the start of summer. Its there he meets Dante, who offers to teach Ari how to swim. The two teens become fast friends – inseparable for the entire summer – and that’s where their journey of discovering the secrets of the universe begins.
While it was fairly slow-paced, I didn’t mind because it was so wonderfully written. Very poetic and lyrical, it really brightened up the few gloomy days I spent reading this book. I really fell in love with all of the characters and I can’t say that about all the books I’ve read.
I loved Ari, the protagonist of the story. I identified with a lot of his anger, and not knowing exactly why, and how he didn’t really know who he was yet (don’t we all). Dante, the more outgoing and intellectual of the two, was also very likeable and relatable, however in very different ways. The dynamic between the two boys is really something else. I don’t want to say too much in case I give anything away, but this is a really special story about a friendship and identity, and just how lonely your teenage years can be, without you even realising.
I especially liked the portrayal of Dante and Ari’s parents. Unlike a lot of over books, they felt more well-rounded and real, which I feel lacks in most media (books, tv, film, etc). Parents are usually these cookie cutter characters with no dimension, that just fade into the background, and are usually just fillers in the story. But the parents in this book, and their relationships with their sons, were really wholesome and real. Every interaction felt valuable and important.
This isn’t the kind of books where lots of things happen, it’s very much character-driven, and I prefer that most of the time. As well as having a very lyrical and flowing writing style, Benjamin Alire Sáenz is very good at writing characters you can care about, but also have flaws. Nobody is perfect. There are secrets and anger and resentment. But as well as that, there is growth and change and perspective. Everything evolves quite organically in this book, which is very much down to Sáenz’s flowing writing style.
I’m a firm believer that young adult fiction isn’t just for teens. Because, after all, weren’t we all teenagers once? We’ve all been through the angst, thinking that we’re totally alone, and nobody else in the world could feel our pain. Even though we constantly change throughout our lives, our formative years are the most important, as they shape us into the kind of people we will ultimately become. I also think that teenagers don’t often get enough credit sometimes – they can be very intellectual and profound despite what society tells us sometimes.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a smart, heart-warming book. It deals with the hardships of life, but still leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside – and believe me, I needed it after reading Asking For It!
“I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”
If you’d like to keep up with what I’m currently reading – and in turn, get a sneak peak of what I’ll be reviewing next – I’d suggest heading over to my Goodreads page. It also features books I want to read, books I’v read in the past, and what I’ve rated them. Have a browse, and who knows, you may even discover your next favourite book.